Archive for internet perversion

Arse Elektronika 2008 Report!

Posted in Announcements! with tags , , , , , , on September 30, 2008 by Bonni Rambatan
Eating My Cake and Having It Too

Eating My Cake and Having It Too

So I was not able to get permission to enter the US for Arse Elektronika, but as host Johannes Grenzfurthner put it, we managed to trick the State department by filming my lecture beforehand and doing a telepresence via Skype connection. Don’t know Arse Elektronika? Check these links out:

Click here if you want yet more links.

And it was wonderful! I kept following Bonnie Ruberg’s twitter-updates on the event and watched as dozens of photos are being uploaded, and of course the MP3 recordings of the talk. You can find all of the MP3s here, but of course, I’ll be generous and provide a direct link to my talk and the massive all-star closure panel, in which I had the chance to clarify certain things I left out in the original talk. Here they are:

Bonni Rambatan — From Computer-Mediated Sex to Computer-Generated Sexuality:
MP3 | Video | Lecture Notes

Arse Elektronika 2008 Closure Panel, featuring all participants:
MP3

There is also a launching of Pr0nnovation? monochrom’s Arse Elektronika Anthology, and of course I’m getting my copy. Get yours here for $25.

And, last but not least, Flickr photos!

But ah, if you also have photos or want to browse more, just join the Arse Elektronika 2008 Flickr group!

So yeah, it was a lot of fun — very sexy, truly geeky, and all the time critical and intriguing. Though I cannot say I fully agree and endorse all the views of the speakers, nonetheless they are smart people worth listening to, far from your usual daily hedonist club. I am very glad that the Skype telepresence and filmed lecture screening went well (not to mention properly fitting the futuristic sci-fi setting!).

The only downside, though (beside missing all the live physical fun), is that it turns out to be pretty hard to predict how long you should talk and how detailed you have to explain things, since I cannot see the audience’s expression. In hindsight, I don’t think I did too well on the Q&A. My paranoid fantasy of me never getting my real point across still haunts. But I guess satisfactory audience understanding is my objet a, much as the electric sheep is the object-cause of desire for your stereotypical android.

UPDATE (10/06): Oh, and hey, there is now a picture of my televised self taken by Mela Mikes. Also, my talk is now available on TPM’s YouTube channel. Go and watch it if you haven’t, TPM readers! ;)

Arse Elektronika 2008 Coming Up!

Posted in Announcements! with tags , , , , , , , on September 6, 2008 by Bonni Rambatan
Arse Elektronika 2008

Arse Elektronika 2008

Hi, TPM readers! I’m excited to announce that Arse Elektronika 2008 is coming up in less than three weeks! If you happen to be either 1) a culture/sex/tech theorist, 2) a sexy geek, or 3) a geeky pervert and are in or near San Francisco in September 25th to 28th, go and grab your tickets now because it will be an event you wouldn’t want to miss out!

Since I am all three above, I am privileged enough to be a speaker, and I’ll be presenting my latest research paper titled “From Computer-Mediated Sex to Computer-Generated Sexuality: An Outlook on the Posthuman Sexual Trope” (abstract available here — scroll down to my name) on the final day (September 28th) at 1 PM. I had a little trouble coming to the States last time (the country won’t let me in), but this time things should (hopefully) work out.

For those of you who cannot come, I will post a download link to my lecture notes in PDF on this website after the event is over. An audio recording of my lecture will also be available at a later time.

Stay tuned to The Posthuman Marxist, and see you in San Francisco!

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UPDATE (09/15): I WILL NOT SEE YOU IN SAN FRANCISCO. IT TURNS OUT THAT I AM STILL NOT ALLOWED TO ENTER THE COUNTRY DUE TO RIDICULOUS INSTITUTIONAL AND FINANCIAL REASONS THEY DEMAND. I WILL BE TELEPRESENT VIA VIDEO PRESENTATION AND LIVE AUDIO SESSION FROM INDONESIA INSTEAD.

And this also means I will be canceling ALL my future appearances in the United States indefinitely. I cannot tell you how this news frustrates me. But I will continue to provide links to resources on this website.

The Deontology of Sexual Relations

Posted in Posthuman Perversion with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 5, 2008 by Bonni Rambatan

The Lacanian “there is no sexual relations” realizes itself perfectly with posthumanistic technologies — with sex technologies getting better and better (cybersex, teledildonics, novelty sex toys and fucking machines, etc.), we are made to become more and more aware that enhanced sex is a lot more enjoyable than “vanilla” sex. Hence, the Lacanian notion that sex itself is nothing but masturbation with a living partner is not at all surprising to us anymore — is that not the reason why we are so seduced by gynoids, virtual or real, in science fictions?

Deontological ethics implies an inherent virtue of action, regardless of their consequences or practical functionality. For example, demarcation lines and money are deontic — they function purely in the Symbolic order and are the big Other itself. Of course, in the contemporary age we have less and less of deontology — you may have found yourself laughing at it, since it has become compulsory now to deconstruct everything, and to realize that there is no such thing as “inherent virtue”. While all this is true, we should not forget that Lacan is nonetheless correct in his psychoanalytic formulations; which is why I like to say, you can deconstruct as you may, but in the end be aware that the only deconstructable experience is the Symbolic, as deconstruction is nothing but a play on signifiers.

Of course a total deconstruction of deontological values, the Names and Nos of the Father, would result in nothing short of a social foreclusion and cultural psychosis. Which is why Žižek notes that our skepticism today is a false, ironic one — it is not that we do not believe, it is that we are afraid to believe. Thus, the true deontological ethics of today resides not in an inherent virtue of action, but in an inherent virtue of desire.

What is very strange about today’s sexuality is the sheer number of bizarre perversions proliferating online. My thesis here, what the title of this post means, is that sexual relations, far from being liberated, is instead being more and more regulated, not at the level of practice but at the level of desire: “You must enjoy sex in more and more new ways, because now (with viagra, political correctness, safe BDSM toys, online anonymity, secure cybersex, Photoshop, porn forums…) we have nothing to worry about!”

A wall, as we proceed in history to become more civilized, can be stripped down into an invisible demarcation line that nevertheless retains its social function as a wall. Gold, as we proceed in history to become more modern, can be stripped down into inherently worthless numbers on screens or papers that nevertheless retains its social function as wealth. Sex, as we proceed in history to become more politically correct, can be stripped down into mere exchange of media that nevertheless retains its social function as “let’s make each other(‘s fantasy) aroused.”

Stupidity and Perversion

Posted in Pop Culture with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 13, 2008 by Bonni Rambatan

Quite a while back I watched the documentary Stupidity, which got me thinking again about the issue. While I don’t disagree that we generally like to see stupid people to make ourselves feel smarter, I like to be more critical — many smart people that I know nevertheless love seeing stupid YouTube videos even if they do not need further evidence that they’re a smart person. Sheer stupidity is essentially funny by definition, which is why we love them. But if we are to recall the basic formula of comedies, even since the time of Aristophanes, the funny part consist mainly of ridiculous plots, exaggerations, and sexual references (including the humongous fake penises strapped to the actors — apparently dick jokes have been around since the very start of jokes). In fact, what constitute humor is essentially ridiculous proportions, not so much a stupid mind. To take on Freudian definitions, these ill-proportions, be it of acts or in images, is always a symptom, a return of the repressed.

And as societies grow, societal symptoms change: in recent times there have been twists to humor and stupidity — it has taken on the realm of challenge, with youth exposing their tongue to electricity in MTV reality shows, and the realm of child gore, as the Happy Tree Friends (another MTV production) and Suicidal Squirrels webisodes prove. On the other hand fetishes are abound, as we are increasingly told to do wilder sex, with all those unfortunate anal beads and safe gag balls. As anyone who has ever tried out a weird sex stunt for the first time knows, let’s admit it, there is always a kind of stupid feeling inside. Then there are shock sites such as the infamous 2girls1cup, or the more recent idiotic stunt of cake farts, that people tend to watch just for the sake of the thrill. While all these need more analysis, suffice it to say for now that stupid humor is always connected with the death drive.

As I have mentioned before, the predominant way of handling the drive in the contemporary era, the predominant structure of society, is perversion. By this, we are disavowing the fact that we live in a “postmodern” world of total contingency, but secretly fearing that what we actually still secretly believe may really be true (“afraid to believe,” as Žižek put it).

The desire to watch stupidity is fundamentally a perverse one precisely because in doing so one turns oneself into an instrument of the other’s desire: stupidity only realizes itself fully under our gaze, a collective (televisional) gaze which is also ours — trip on a bucket alone in the house, and it won’t be funny, but do it in a mall, it would be hilarious. And there are also stupid acts that are only stupid when it is seen — try picking your nose and have a crowd accidentally spot you. As such, stupidity as a spectacle realizes the full element of its transgression: by watching the other’s stupid acts, we help the other to sin (and as we know, the sin is closely related to jouissance). Thus, do we, as reifications of our gaze, not take on the primary function of the pervert, by acting as an instrument of the other’s jouissance?

The Society of Perversion

Posted in Posthuman Perversion with tags , , , , , , , , on July 31, 2008 by Bonni Rambatan

The cultural shift from modern to postmodern is a curious one: we move away from a society concerned with discipline and routine customs and strict difference of work and home to a society with a disappearing boundary between labor and leisure plus an added bonus of a whole lot of free porn. In other words, if society at large can be seen as a person, the disciplined neurotic has now turned into an irrational pervert.

A lot of reasons should come to mind. A first obvious one would be what I have stated above — the disintegrating boundary of labor and leisure with the advent of computers, and later cyberspace. Does this disintegration not also serve as a symbolic disintegration of the big Other of the work office? Seeing the symptoms apparent in today’s society, I am tempted to claim so. This disintegration, however, both constitutes and is a part of a larger cultural phenomena — the advent of new media (for an explanation on the relationship, please refer to Lev Manovich’s The Language of New Media). In other words, the changing structure of media itself changes the psychological sphere of society.

Where do we begin? Let us take the Lacanian position in regards to analyzing perversion: it is essentially the disavowal of the fact that the mother does not posses a phallus. This mother for the society at large is the mother that deep feminism has introduced to us: nature. What is nature? Nature has always been understood as some kind of mystical balance existence itself, something that can only be experienced as mediated by the ultimate big Other of its laws. But what is happening today is precisely the realization that there is no nature: Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, Gödel’s incompleteness theorems, chaos theory, economic failures, etc. — the Lacanian “the big Other does not exist” suddenly emerges in most — if not all — intellectual fields. Then there is the added anxiety with our natural biological existence that comes with biotechnology and cybernetics combined — the shadow of the ultimate inefficacy of biology; the Haylesian becoming of the posthuman.

In short, the advent of the posthuman means the traumatic realization that the mother does not possess the phallus (of balanced deterministic progress, benevolence and subordination towards mankind, and so on), and the perversion prevalent in today’s society can be precisely read as a symptom of the disavowal of such realization. This can be confirmed by looking back into the previous mode of society, the neurosis — are we not precisely, by repressing sexuality, repressing our “natural, animalistic” instincts? With postmodernity, our sexuality is no longer repressed — it is let loose, but disavowed of its being a highly emotional and subjective, “uncodable” experience, for we have to treat it as an act of mere casual fun and games (I first blogged this issue here). Recall the notion of the animal signifier — being an “animal” used to be a derogatory remark, but now it means positively sexually aggressive, especially when compared to the now hip derogatory remark of being a “robot” in a relationship. (Curiously enough, the notion of “sex robots” are positive only qua an other we want to have sex with, not as).

As we are about to become near-spiritual beings with biotechnology and cybernetics, we force ourselves to have as much detached sex as possible, because we secretly fear that we could never be posthuman. We have now a perverse injunction to regard oneself as the instrument of the actual bodiless sexual relations, since the body is now a mere prostheses — a phallus of the Other apropos biological strap-on dildos.

The Censorship of Love

Posted in Posthuman Perversion with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 4, 2008 by Bonni Rambatan

Another Žižek-inspired post I’ve been wanting to write for a while now. I could not agree more when, in many occasions, he mentioned that in this age of so-called non-censorship, where everything is practically visible, we become more and more afraid of showing love. Basically, all kinds of sex is OK, as long as it remains detached and emotionless — which is why we have all those stupid narratives which is necessary to every feature porn movie and those strict non-narrative aspect of gonzo. Ever notice how saying “I love you” to a loved one has to be said more and more with a distance as years go by? Either we tend to say it in metaphors, foreign languages, text messages, under the pretext of special occasions… Practically, it’s not only the use of pleasure that’s controlling the society, but also the use of compassion. Obviously, the society of control takes into account how we internalize social hierarchies into our personal emotions, but at certain points it just gets blatant and ironic when critically viewed upon, with taboos surrounding our very personal, microlevel emotions.

Another thing I find interesting: notice how much sex and porn just gets harder to separate as years pass by? I am of course talking about teledildonics and all the discourse and technology surrounding it. So at the same time, we get sex more and more separated from love, and more and more integrated with porn, and at the same time porn gets more and more pervasive and becomes another leisure ideology, casual and daily. On the other hand, marriage becomes more and more of a horrific thing as bad sex leads to bad love. Now here is an irony: sexual revolution was a thing of the sixties with all the “free love” agenda. Sadly, we only took one aspect of the legacy and forgot the rest. We took the practices alone yet enjoyed ideological dominance all the same, if not even more.

Perhaps that is why we tend to find animals, monsters, and robots sexier and sexier by the day. I am seriously suspicious that at least one of the reasons is that they cannot love (yes, I know people who marry those non-human others, but I won’t develop a discussion on that now). They are purely sexual, non-emotional others — cyborg others, if we are to take the Macy Conferences on Cybernetics as any indication of how the cyborg came to be, as Katherine Hayles noted. Cybernetic organisms cannot love. They can only enjoy. As the society of discipline represses sexuality as an animal-like excess of the human, the society of control represses love as a human-like excess of the cyborg.

Let’s admit it, there’s always a weird exhibitionist dimension in social network profile pictures flaunting love that is different from and exceeds those of online porn. It is because our non-loving avatars have become us. The geek typing in front of the monitor is his avatar.

On Pedophilia and Posthumanity

Posted in Posthuman Perversion with tags , , , , on June 30, 2008 by Bonni Rambatan

This lecture of Žižek’s hit something that I have not yet, prior to this realization, developed on my theories of posthuman sexuality. To get right down to it, the question would be this: isn’t it interesting that in a society where almost every consensual sexual act is not only condoned but solicited — and even to the extent of using violence, corpses, and excremental objects — child porn still has to remain as a very strong taboo? Of course I by no means condone pedophilia, but what I find very ridiculous is the flimsy argument of age that is taken as a symbolic line separating those able of having the socio-cognitive function of consensus and those unable. I mean, we are today more than ever very diligent people when it comes to teaching children of consensus and openness — say for determining a weekend trip — and didn’t we say we believe Freud when he said children are really not asexual creatures? So shouldn’t the golden rule of postmodernity of “If all sides agreed, and it will bring pleasure to all sides, it’s only politically correct to do” also apply here? What is going on?

With Žižek, I would assert that this fear of pedophilia is not as much a moral obligation as it is an excuse necessary in the construction of a sacred other. To put it frankly, one is able to commit all sorts of crimes and indulge in all sorts of obscene debaucheries and still mentally function only when one has faith that there is some part of the society that is still pure and innocent. This “sacred other” in today’s society is very well served by, of course, children. This total negation of the notion of child sexuality is precisely the move that enable us to exploit all kinds of perversion within us — as long as we love innocent children and keep them away from these dangers until they reach their 18th birthday, we can feel free to do anything we want to do.

What does this have to do with posthumanity? Extrapolating Žižek’s claim further, I notice that a very much celebrated online way (or perhaps the way) of this protect-the-children movement is — you guessed it — age verification. It is as though human society is allowed to become posthuman only after they reach a certain age. What is going on here? It is easy to dismiss this as logical protective gesture, but when you see the amount of discourse circulating that in essence worry about what effect a world inhabited by subjects of fluid, arbitrary identities will have on human children, you would understand why I prefer to take this as a sign that something highly traumatic is going on in the process of identity (hence sexuality) construction in cyberspace.

What is this trauma, and how should we read the discourses of child protection? I’ll keep you updated with more findings and resources. Stay tuned to The Posthuman Marxist! :)